Too Many Cooks: Father's Day Edition

June 19, 2015

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Today: We (mostly) sing the praises of our dear ol' dads' cooking and eating.


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Whether our fathers were our families' executive chefs, sous chefs, weekend chefs, or just appreciative eaters, most of us have smudgy-edged memories of our dads puttering around the kitchen in their distinct dad ways—eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon, rolling out pizza or pie dough, making pancakes on Saturday mornings, or tossing together specialty salads. On Father's Day, we celebrate and remember our dads, with so many of these memories inevitably taking place around the kitchen table, out by the grill, or at the apron strings of our fathers. 

We fired up the warm-fuzzies and asked the Food52 team: What is the recipe or food your dad is known for? (And please share your stories in the comments!)

Jackie Stauffer: Stuffed cabbage! I've watched him make it dozens of times. He uses a family recipe and makes a simple but tasty filling of meat and rice. The real treasure is the sauce. I don't know everything that's in it, but there are tomatoes, onions, carrots, raisins, and some other ingredients that just bring out the best flavor. It's the perfect winter meal. 

Heather Wautelet: Jackie, I want that cabbage recipe. 

My father-in-law isn’t much of a cook, but he absolutely nails the art of sandwich-making. He lives in Chicago, so visits with him often include a Midwest road trip.  He sends us off with a kiss and brown bag lunches filled with sliced peaches and impeccably layered Italian or club sandwiches. The ingredients tend to be fairly standard, but for some reason the sandwiches we make at home just don’t compare. Whenever my husband and I daydream about opening a business, many times there will be a "Johnny D’s Sandwiches" component tacked on—even in the most illogical scenarios.

Barbecue Chicken

Catherine O’Donnell: Barbecue chicken is my dad's specialty! I don't think a weekend at home goes by without him making it. He always adds rosemary to his sauce, which I love. He's also known for eating lots of chocolate ice cream on the weekend. 

Leslie Stephens: For almost ten years, from middle school through high school, my three best girlfriends would walk over to my house every Sunday at 10 AM for "Pancake Sunday" featuring "Norman's Pancakes." My dad would make us each the fluffiest pancakes, with warmed maple syrup and melted butter, always served with breakfast sausage and fresh berries. We'd sit around the dining table for hours talking with my parents and have competitions to see who could eat the most pancakes—the record still stands at 8. We still do it every time we're all home and it's what I look forward to most.

Hot dogs

Olivia Bloom: Although we make fun of him for it, and pretend to be horrified, I secretly love when my dad makes his favorite lunch for us: Boiled hot dogs with ketchup, mustard, and chopped white onion. After being gifted a Le Creuset grill press, he's upped his lunch game to include a perfectly crunchy and melty turkey panini, always with Thousand Island dressing.

Jovan Stojanovich: Omelette concoctions with leftovers! They're fun for kids to help out with on a weekend morning.

Christina DiLaura: Eggs! I attribute my egg obsession to the fact that every Sunday my dad was pulling out a fry pan to whip up a frittata or poached sunny side up, dippy egg (aka "the soft, delicate, loving method"). 

Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm: My dad is also a chicken man. He makes tandoori chicken and takes great pride in his overnight marinade, using spices he toasts and grinds in a mortar and pestle. What I most know my dad for, though, are his pancakes. Growing up, he’d make them every weekend. They weren’t from scratch, and they were always a little batter-y and raw in the center, but I loved them. Piled high and drenched in my dad’s own maple syrup (he converted our greenhouse into a sugar shack), there was no better breakfast


Caroline Lange: My dad is a master of pie. He taught me to make and appreciate a good crust (he follows the Joy of Cooking's basic pie dough recipe), and to eat pie for breakfast. But my family also loves and sometimes teases him for his deep love of cream cheese-and-olive sandwiches, always made on toasted Thomas' English muffins. 

Stephanie Bourgeois: My dad is all about the spaghetti sauce. He makes huge batches of his version of bolognese and then has people over for spaghetti dinner. 

Ryan Merrill: Pizza! My Dad used to own a small-town pizza parlor in Amherst, Ohio, and is still known to make a decent pie in his kitchen oven on any given Friday.

Leandra Levine: My dad's pancakes absolutely cannot be beat. I think, as a child, I just assumed all pancakes would taste as good as his and always claimed pancakes as one of my favorite foods and yet was sorely disappointed more than half the time when other pancakes didn't measure up. He uses an old New York Times recipe, nothing too special or fancy, but there is a fine art to actually cooking pancakes and he has mastered it. I would rather eat the infamous "first pancake" from my dad than the finest of the batch from anywhere else. No fruit, no nuts, no chocolate—just pure pancake goodness plus lots of butter and real maple syrup, please!

Allen Miglore's Caesar

More: Make Kristen Miglore's dad's Genius Caesar Salad.

Carmen Lapido: My dad was usually in charge of breakfast on the weekends, but my mom would ask him to make large batches of breakfast-able baked goods to have during the week. My favorite was his mango bread. It was so dense and so delicious. Just the right amount of sweetness from the honey and the mango, which made it all moist and beautiful. I could probably eat that for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Hannah Wilken: When I was growing up, my dad cooked every Sunday night and he used to call it "Papa Style" (we called my dad Papa). This meant that we didn't have to set the table and we could all grab what we wanted. Usually he made his famous baked chicken or stir-fry, and to this day when I come home and he cooks, it's still called "Papa Style."

Lauren Locke: My dad did a lot of Sunday and holiday cooking, but I always think of his "apple canpakes," which we ate on Christmas morning. My favorite cooking tradition with him is actually new.  Every time he visits, we find an old recipe to cook as a way of ensuring quality time in the kitchen together.  Recently we've made maple souffle and half hour pudding.  This upcoming Father's Day Sunday we are extending the tradition another generation and making "apple canpakes" with my son Hudson. 

PB+pickle sandwich

Sarah Jampel: Whenever there is a piece of bread in sight, my dad makes a sandwich—it doesn't matter what else is on his plate. Steak sandwich, spaghetti sandwich, broccoli sandwich, sandwich's all happened. 

Nicole Price: My dad is definitely not a cook. I think he actually secretly can cook, but he just pretends like he can't. BUT when the whole family is home on a weekend morning, his duty is always to bust out the waffle pan. I don't love waffles, and I rarely would choose them as a brunch item, but I'll always eat the waffles that my dad makes. 

Hillary Pollak: My dad used to make pancakes every Sunday. He is extremely detail oriented, so this resulted in the best brunch—the griddle was never too hot and the pancakes were perfectly formed circles. His secret is to bulk up the batter with a lot of fruit and make tiny, silver dollar-sized pancakes. My brother and I competed to eat our respective ages in pancakes and drizzled a bit too much maple syrup on them. To this day, I find all other pancakes too large and too dense. Blueberry pancakes should be full of blueberries, right?

Micki Balder: I'm tempted to say my dad's specialty is oatmeal (Maypo, to be specific)—not because it was particularly fabulous, but because he was never much of a cook when I was growing up. That being said, he grew up in Russia, and does make pretty awesome blinis.

Egg salad

Amanda Sims: My dad, Ed, is also an egg fiend—he specializes in a dead-simple egg salad that we scoop out of the bowl on saltines (the same recipe can be adjusted to make reliable deviled eggs). In the morning, he soft scrambles them over the lowest burner setting (yes, the one that threatens to extinguish constantly!) using a wide spatula, which takes a million years to cook them but yields the softest, pillowy mounds you can imagine. Also jello-y things: He taught me how to make—and love—junket and a strawberry pie that's basically strawberries suspended in strawberry Jell-O in a pie crust. Lastly, crouton salad, which is croutons in a bowl with Italian dressing that you eat with a spoon.

Lindsay-Jean Hard: I'm lucky enough to have two dads. My father has carried on the family tradition of making a mean batch of aebleskivers, and my stepfather makes a great cup of tea. I know that sounds a bit odd—after all, how hard is it to make a cup of tea? But even when I use the same ingredients (tea, hot water, wedge of fresh lemon, peppermint candy), mine just never tastes as good as his does. And one of the only perks to feeling under the weather is that he'll turn my cup of tea into a hot toddy before I even think to request it.

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Gabriella's dad

Gabriella Mangino: My dad loves to cook. There's a very long list of foods that have earned the title "Greg's" or "Dad's," including carbonara, chicken with mole, and scones (I'm just naming favorites here). But there is one thing that my dad truly loves to cook, feed to others...and eat cold for breakfast the next morning (he calls it the true breakfast of champions). And that is pizza. Every Friday night, he makes pizza for the family using a full arsenal of tools including this walnut pizza cutter and a pizza grill (which he plans to replace with a pizza oven in the backyard). 

Above is a photo of my dad with a pizza that he pulled off the grill while it was pouring.

Photos of pancakes and Caesar salad by Mark Weinberg; photos of chicken, hot dog, egg salad, and egg salad by James Ransom; peanut butter-and-pickle sandwich photo by Food52 editors

What is your dad famous for making (or eating)? Share with us in the comments. 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Stephanie
  • dymnyno
  • AntoniaJames
  • TheFritschKitchen
  • Niknud
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Stephanie June 23, 2015
My dad is a good cook, albeit much more "free form" than my recipe oriented mom. Chili was a Christmas eve tradition (also made throughout the year) and it was a moment of pride when I was deemed old enough and experienced enough to make suggestions about what was missing or what he needed to add a pinch more of. When someone once asked for his recipe, he was happy to write it down for them:
Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste
Stewed Tomatoes
Chili Powder
Onion Salt
dymnyno June 19, 2015
I don't recognize the names of most of the editors, etc, but back when Food52 was a tight knit group of cooks we loved stories from our own, like Liz the Chef's recipe called Dad's Day Turkey Tetrazinni . Her sweet story about her father still brings tears to my eyes.
AntoniaJames June 19, 2015
So, so true, Mary. Thank you for reminding me. For those who haven't seen this hidden gem on Food52, it is here: Be sure to look at all of the photos! It's a clever, great tasting dish, too. ;o)
sexyLAMBCHOPx June 21, 2015
Catch up on the Heirloom Recipes column if you enjoy Food52'ers recipe with a story.
Leslie S. June 22, 2015
On that note, there's a new Heirloom Recipe going up this afternoon that I think you will all enjoy!
AntoniaJames June 19, 2015
My father did not start cooking and baking until he was nearly 80, when he took over full responsibility after my mother's health had been failing for a while. He's a great cook, capable of making just about (if not) everything my mother made, and more. He regularly entertains, including fairly regular luncheons for a bunch of his high school friends. He loves making (and they love eating) his Beef Burgundy. ;o) P.S. I hope that I and all of you will be making lunches like that for friends when we're well into our 80's.
TheFritschKitchen June 19, 2015
My father made one dinner, and one dinner alone: Pork Chop Supreme, from my mom's wonderfully bright orange Betty Crocker cookbook. To this day, I still remember the recipe: lay chops in baking dish, layer each one with a slice of onion, a slice of lemon, a tablespoon of brown sugar and a tablespoon of ketchup. Bake.

I think my mom asked him to cook dinner one night, he grabbed the cookbook, opened it and decided to cook the first recipe he saw. Turns out, it was actually very delicious and it soon turned into a common occurrence on our kitchen table. LOVE dad's pork chop supreme!
Niknud June 19, 2015
I remember once, right after I got married, trying (and failing) to duplicate my Grandmother's brisket recipe. I called my dad in tears at the 2nd attempt after spending what was, at that time, a not-insignificant portion of my monthly income of what was basically at that point shoe leather. My Dad sighed and said, "Rachael...oh, Rachael. You and the brisket? You were staring at each other. You blinked first. Just. Keep. Cooking." Never messed up a brisket since. Dads are the best!
James June 19, 2015
Friday's are pizza from scratch day for me for the past few weeks. An excuse to have cheese once a week too. My pizzas are nowhere as close as the one your dad is holding.